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Camilla Cooke explains the Kevin07 digital campaign – notes from CCI ‘Creating Value Between Commons and Commerce’ conference, Brisbane, 2008

Here’s the second of a set of notes scribed during the main sessions of the CCI’s conference ‘Creating Value Between Commons and Commerce‘.

Camilla Cooke was the strategist behind the Kevin07 digital campaign in what she described as ‘Australia’s first digital election’. In a fantastic presentation she went through the rationale behind the digital elements of the Kevin07 campaign and some of the figures and outcomes (beyond the election result!). As all future elections will have a strong digital component what made Cooke’s presentation so interesting was the clear distinction it made between old, in Jenkins’ terms ‘sticky media’, and the challenges and opportunities of ‘spreadable’, participatory media. It provided a great case study of the changing media and communications environment.

Kevin07 as a digital campaign was created for the Australian Labour Party for the purposes of

– engaging in debate and building ‘direct dialogue with the nation’
– propagation of the ‘message’ by providing content and tools for the community to deliver the ‘message’
– providing the ‘route to youth’, especially approaching first and second time voters in the online places they expect to be approached
– being ‘highly efficient marketing’ providing very cost effective reach and frequency as well as offering the benefits of geographic targetting which was especially critical in marginal electorates

The digital campaign was supported by online advertising and search engine marketing. The whole campaign comprised the site, MySpace and Facebook profiles, a YouTube channel, an email campaign (kmail), and a mobile site (

The main site drew 2 million pageviews, 400,000 unique visitors, 14,000 ‘have your say’ forms and 18,000 online petitions submitted. The content on the site was created by one blogger with the rest being user-generated – in the ‘have your say’ section. It provided a portal to sell 40,000 Kevin07 t-shirts and generated the ‘wear your shirt’ viral sub-campaign, which in turn generated enormous demand for toddler sized shirts.

The Kevin07 videos had 1.8 million views, the MySpace persona gathered 24,000 friends and Facebook brought in 20.000 fans. Both MySpace and Facebook provided an important alternative to email communications. The mobile site, experimental as it was, drew 34,000 visits.

Importantly the ‘reach and frequency’ (measures from the traditional media world) in marginal seats was “1.2 million people at a frequency of 2.26 times” which compared to other media (print and TV) was achieved a fraction of the cost. Likewise, in PR terms, there was huge on and offline coverage of the digital campaign and this helped establish very strong brand.

In using video and YouTube the campaign emphasised an ‘authentic’ YouTube style focusing on personality-driven handheld camera approaches. They understood that the ‘swinging voter’ rarely watched ‘serious news’ but did watch short online videos, thus short form video became a crucial means of engaging these voters. The forwarding of videos via links in email also became a very successful marketing technique as well as key to campaigning. Apparently, a ‘thank you for donating’ video by Julia Gillard ended up raising five times as much money as the original donation campaign she was thanking!

The strength was such that the digital campaign became symbolic of the difference between the parties – the ‘future’ and the ‘past’. Cooke noted that this sort of difference will never happen again as all parties will be (and will need to be) digitally savvy in future elections.

In ‘opening up the dialogue’ the moderators of the site were very liberal in their approach to publishing pretty much everything that was submitted to the site – regardless of political persuasion, only applying obscenity and insanity laws.

Negative UGC even worked in favour of the campaign and Cooke cited the example of the Chinese propaganda-style critique of Rudd. This isn’t always the case though, she emphasised, pointing to the devastating impact of the John Edwards personal grooming video in the US).

This ‘participatory’ approach raises many challenges – 24/7 exposure means an ongoing need for ‘damage limitation’ and quick response and awareness of ‘disinformation and slander’. Cooke also flagged the difficulties in ‘maintaining the dialogue’ that had been established during the campaign – because future credibility relies on the maintenance of that dialogue.

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